Cite as: Kastrinou, M., 2017, “The guests of Lesbos: Hospitality among Syrian refugees in Greece”. Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development
Having escaped a brutal war, the hungry Poseidon of the Aegean sea, and looking towards an un-certain future in Europe, Syrian refugees in Greece find themselves liminally suspended between a tragedy they have just escaped, and the hope for safety in the European hinterland. In limbo, they must endure police detentions, antiterrorism interrogations, and rely on the kindness of strangers and charities for the fulfilment of their most basic human rights. To recount their journeys, experi-ences, and hopes, instead of focussing on victimhood and tragedy alone, this paper explores Syrian stories of dignity, and practices of survival and resistance through hospitality. Specifically, it anal-yses how, through the Syrian cultural idiom of karam, Syrian refugees who arrive in the Greek is-land of Lesbos attempt to maintain a degree of their own agency, humanity and dignity, in the face of incredible adversity and uncertainty. Moreover, employing the idiom of hospitality, Syrian refu-gees attempt to negotiate their precarious position vis-a-vis the countries and institutions — states, security, humanitarian — that they encounter outside of Syria. In this way, this work challenges prominent stereotypes of refugees as tragic but essentially ‘voiceless’ figures, empty and homoge-nous signifiers, as ‘helpless’ and in need of saving victims, as apolitical and dehistoricised objects of knowledge.